Last week, we told you the bad news: David Douglas High School students still haven’t received YouthPasses two months into the school year. Following our expose on the delayed process, several of our allies reached out to react in outrage and shock. Then, just a few days later, DDHS administrators sent out an announcement that YouthPass applications were available and due on November 17th. This is good progress, but Youth Environmental Justice Alliance leaders demand more. Youth organizers attended the DDHS Board Meeting on Thursday to voice their concerns. Their testimony is below. We want to celebrate DDHS Board Members, as well as the schools’ Superintendent, who were all receptive and welcoming of youth advocacy around this important issue and who will be our partner as we work to ensure YouthPasses reach the students who need them most.
Say Wah Paw, YEJA Member
Thank you Chair Larsen and members of the board,
My name is Say Wah Paw and I’m a Junior at David Douglas High School and a member with the Youth Environmental Justice Alliance. YEJA is a youth leadership program that builds power with low income youth and youth of color in Portland to address injustices that we identify in our communities.
I am here today because the administration at David Douglas has only recently begun distributing applications and still does not have a criteria for who will receive passes first. There’s been a delay in the process of passing out YouthPass. The administration is questioning whether they need YEJA’s input, and when we offered solutions they still rejected our help. They’re not giving YEJA enough room to participate and have a voice, and have delayed distributing passes for two months.
This is damaging because there are students who really need bus passes, like me, or my friend who recently moved out of the district but needed to stay here to keep his core requirements.
We have had to wait quite a while and were expecting to receive YouthPass at the beginning of this year. After two months we still haven’t received them. We first heard about the application last Friday from an email that was only sent to some parent accounts. An announcement was made on Tuesday to come to the North or South Office to get the application.
Students that don’t have money to catch the bus are being denied a chance to get to school. YEJA and the Multnomah Youth Commission should be involved in the administration of this program. We have a right to have a say in how this program is created at our schools. We worked to win this program for over two years. I feel cheated when we are excluded.
If our community can come together to achieve and solve this mess, and actually get YouthPasses to the students who need them, you’ll make a big difference for students and families. We can’t dismiss one another. We need to work as a community to find solutions.
Allan McKenzie, YEJA Member
Thank you Chair Larsen and members of the board,
My name is Aallan McKenzie and I am a sophomore at Parkrose High School and a member of YEJA. I have been involved in advocating for the YouthPass program over the past year. YEJA has worked very hard over the past two and a half years to get YouthPass in our schools. I have been to testimonies for the Parkrose school board and have spoken with city council members in the past. I feel like still today we are not seeing a strong impact of the program in David Douglas and Parkrose High Schools and I am not understanding why. I feel like as youth we are being misunderstood and not included in the implementation of the program.
YouthPass is for students to be able to get to school on time and to help out their parents, so that they don’t have to be worried during the work day if their child can get to and from school. Now that we have YouthPass at David Douglas and Parkrose we should be working together to distribute YouthPass equitably.
At Parkrose, YouthPass isn’t working out in the best way it could. The administration started out with 50 monthly passes for October. That quickly ran out and I wasn’t able to get one. Instead we are given two and a half hour passes for the day, which isn’t cost effective for the school and not a great option. I’ve finally gotten a monthly pass for November.
We need to create a system at David Douglas High School where students who need passes most receive them first. I still know of students that ask friends, or even teachers for money to catch the bus at Parkrose and I don’t want the same for David Douglas students.
We want schools to have more outreach to students about the program. It should include multilingual letters to parents, posters on the wall advertising about YouthPass, and also having more consistent announcements about how to get a pass. We need to work together as a community to create a process that is equitable. We all want YouthPass to be continued and thriving at Parkrose and David Douglas High Schools. We care about the role of the school in helping students get to school and involved in their communities.
Adrian Cato, Youth Environmental Justice Alliance Organizer
Chair Larsen and members of the Board,
Thank you for your time. My name is Adrian Cato. I am the Youth Environmental Justice Alliance (YEJA) Organizer with OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon.
David Douglas now has access to over a quarter of a million dollars of funding to provide free transit passes to their students. This victory was won on behalf of youth advocate members of YEJA, Multnomah Youth Commission, and Momentum Alliance and should be recognized and celebrated. This is a positive step forward to achieving more equitable distribution of the YouthPass program. Youth of color as leaders in their communities is something that we should all continue to support and be proud of.
Currently we are two and a half months into the school year and are beginning to slowly see some traction in the implementation of the program. I want to echo what Say Wah and Aallan have said about our members continuing to have difficulties in getting to and from school. Others are unable to be involved in after school activities without having to spend their own money on transportation. It is important to get this program moving quickly and getting it right by centering equity and student engagement.
Meaningfully incorporating the voices of youth and partners is essential to building out a successful and strong program. OPAL and our YEJA members are committed to doing this. We need the support of all levels of upper administration.
Moving forward, our members offer the following suggestions:
- A multi-lingual communication going out to all DDHS parents. Many of our communities and parents are non english speakers.
- Meaningfully engage youth and community partners. We are here and want to help.
- Youth and community partners need to be treated with respect in meetings and in all communication. This should be a common expectation.
We look forward to continuing to work with the David Douglas administration and board in building an equitable YouthPass program at David Douglas High School.